Jack Boyle

Unreliable

We are introduced to the character of Jack Boyle before we meet him via his wife, Juno, at the opening of Act I.

Despite it being breakfast time Boyle has not yet returned from a night of drinking with his friend Joxer.

Juno’s first line is, "Isn’t he come in yet?"

Therefore, our first impression of him is that he appears untrustworthy and cannot be relied upon by his family or his friends.

In the first act Joxer is his best friend. But as soon as Boyle hears about his financial windfall he immediately promises Juno that "I’m done with Joxer ... I’m a new man from this out ...".

This is juxtaposed with the following scene which opens with Boyle inviting Joxer into his home again.

He is fickle and nothing he says can be trusted.

His criticism of the clergy as having "too much power over the people in this unfortunate country" is followed up - soon after the good news about his inheritance - with him "fervently" promising that "I’ll never doubt the goodness o’ God agen."

Right up to the end of the play - when he cruelly dismisses his own daughter for falling pregnant before she is married - he continues to be unreliable and untrustworthy to all who know him.

Self-centred

The many scenes that Jack shares with Joxer - despite promising Juno at the end of Act I, "Juno, I’m done with Joxer" - show him as a self-centered man who spends his time drinking with his pal rather than looking for work.

This aspect of his personality is reinforced as the play progresses.

For example, when he finds out that his only daughter is pregnant he thinks solely of the effect Mary's pregnancy will have on him and his imagined reputation. He immediately says, "Amn’t I afther goin’ through enough without havin’ to go through this!"

His self-involved nature means he is a bad father, husband and friend.

He refuses to put his family first and is even disloyal to Joxer when he thinks he is receiving money.

A very unpleasant example of how Captain Boyle cares for no one but himself is seen after Mrs Tancred delivers her devastating speech about the death of her son.

The Captain’s indifferent response once Mrs Tancred has left the party, “We’ve nothin’ to do with these things, one way or t’other. That’s the Government’s business, an’ let them do what we’re payin’ them for doin’” shows that he has no sympathy for his neighbour’s plight and takes no responsibility for the well-being of anyone else.

Idle

Right from the opening scene, Captain Jack Boyle is portrayed as work-shy and idle.

O’ Casey reinforces Jack’s laziness by contrasting him with the character of his wife. While she waits for him to return from socialising, she is preparing to go out to do a day’s work - emphasising his inadequacy in providing for his family

We see him suffering from, "the pains in these legs o’ mine" any time there is an opportunity to work.

There is the implication in Juno’s remark, "It’s miraculous that whenever he scents a job in front of him, his legs begin to fail him!" that he fakes pain to avoid working.

Despite this we see him ordering his hard-working wife around as if she were his inferior.

At the end of the play the women leave to take on the responsibility of Mary's child by themselves. As an unmarried mother, Mary's situation would have attracted great stigma at the time.

They do this because it is clear that Jack is never going to change and will be of no use to them as he neither brings in income nor helps around the house.

Juno resigns herself to the fact that "he’ll be hopeless till the end of his days".

When Mary worries that her child will "have no father", Juno replies that "It’ll have what’s far betther – it’ll have two mothers."

After years of observing Jack’s feckless behavior and laziness, she believes the women can do a better job themselves.

Pompous

Jack Boyle is the “paycock” of the title; his wife says at the very beginning of the play that he is "struttin' about the town like a paycock with Joxer, I suppose".

Even the language used in his physical description depicts him as a showy man - his face is "puffed out", his stomach "thrust forward" and his walk is a "slow, consequential strut".

The use of the word "strut" suggests a pompous style.

The title "Captain" - which he seems to have given himself - is the product of self-importance. He reminisces about his time at sea "sailin’ from the Gulf o’ Mexico to the Antanarctic Ocean". This contrasts with Juno’s sneer that he has been "only wanst on the wather, in an oul’ collier from here to Liverpool".

The image that Jack presents to the world seems very different from the reality, but he is given to self-delusion.

When he believes himself to be a man of means we see him take on airs of grandeur. Act II opens with the stage directions stating that "the furniture is more plentiful, and of a vulgar nature".

He has filled "every available spot" with fake flowers and is smoking a pipe on the sofa.

He becomes a caricature of what he thinks a monied gentleman is like. Despite not having received a penny of the inheritance yet, when asked by Joxer how it feels now to be “a man o’ money” the Captain pompously replies “It’s a responsibility, Joxer, a great responsibility.”

The irony of course is that he has never had any of this money and never will.

Cowardly

When Johnny has his episode of panic in Act II and seems to see something that isn’t there, Jack appears to be just as frightened as his son.

When Juno asks him to go and show Johnny that everything is okay, the stage directions state that Boyle is "making no move".

Instead, he puts on a brave face and passes Johnny’s panic off as "nonsense" but immediately tasks Mary with the job of checking.

Again we see Boyle thinking more of himself than his own children in their time of need.

O’Casey shows no redeeming development in his character. The play ends with Boyle and Joxer returning to the stage drunk again, with Boyle not even knowing that his son is dead.

He has taken the easy way out and retreated into a world of alcohol-induced fantasy rather than being brave enough to face his problems.